Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Junagarh Fort (exterior), Bikaner

The first thing that struck me about Bikaner was the super-abundance of camel carts! It seemed to me that everywhere I pointed my camera, I found a camel. Here's the first photo I clicked in Bikaner city, you can see the camel-cart in the foreground, with 'Chintamani' (now called Junagarh) in the background. 
The word Chintamani refers to a legendary wish-fulfilling jewel. He who possesses the Chintamani is assured of getting his heart's desire. An apt name, then, for a fort that articulated the dreams of the Bikaner dynasty who wanted to build a kingdom of their own in a desolate land.

Juna means Old, and Garh means Fort. In the 1900's the royal family of Bikaner moved out of Chintamani, into a new palace. Locals then began to call the old fort Junagarh. The new palace, Lalgarh (translation: the Red Fort) is now a heritage hotel, and the family still lives there.

Most Rajasthani forts are designed for protection, usually located at vantage points at the top of a hill. The rulers of Bikaner seem to have had no such fears, and built Junagarh fort right at the ground level. Which is a bit strange, because Bikaner has had a history of feuding with Marwar (Jodhpur) ever since Rao Bika mounted an expedition against Jodhpur in the late 1400's. Perhaps they were confident of Karni Mata's blessings!

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